Recently in Arizona Criminal Defense Category

November 13, 2013

Robberies need not be as epic as Bonnie and Clyde's to be some of the most serious crimes under law.

makin-change-680711-m.jpgWhen I heard this story on the local news about "Bonnie and Clyde" style robbery suspects being arrested in Arizona, I stopped to reflect upon an image of "Bonnie and Clyde's" get-away car I had seen several years ago, on display in Nevada.

Bonnie and Clyde, the historical crime duo, were killed in their get-away car which had been riddled with over 100 bullets in 1934. Because of their violent cross country crime spree, they were considered highly dangerous. So authorities decided to capture them dead instead of alive.

As I studied the bullet riddled car, and some shredded and tattered clothing they had been wearing at the time of their death, I felt this overwhelming sense of terror and sadness. It was an eerie. I was saddened by the thought that in some way people looked at the vehicle and other related items as trophies, and as for Bonnie and Clyde themselves, they were remembered as icons.

But why? I suppose it was the "One person's villain is another person's hero" syndrome. As I looked around the room, I saw newspaper clipping, stories, and photos framed from 1932 to 1934. They followed events of the cross-country crime spree, and violence. Finally, the last photo I noted was taken immediately following Bonnie and Clyde's death, taken of them as they lay lifeless by the vehicle. It was difficult to look at.

No, these were no trophies. There were no heroes. These were symbols of tragedy, and consequences of crimes that to this day, have not ceased to exist.

At the same time, I saw a failed criminal justice system..."Wanted dead or alive" is how the posters read. Regardless of how serious or violent the crime they were entitled to a fair trial by jury, under the United States Constitution. Whether they deserved a fair trial or not, was irrelevant.

Robberies need not be as epic or dramatic as those committed by Bonnie and Clyde to be considered some of the most serious crimes under law. Robbery convictions in Arizona and call for the serious penalties with life long penalties. If a gun or deadly weapon is possessed, even if it is not used, it is charged as "Armed Robbery" in violation of A.R.S. 13 § 1904. Armed Robbery is a Class 2 felony, the most severe, just short of Class 1 felonies that are reserved for the most serious of crimes, homicide. Aggravated criminal penalties can result in life in prison.

Robberies were committed at businesses in the Phoenix metropolitan area, 5 of them in Gilbert, 3 in Mesa and 2 in Chandler. A thirty-year-old male and his twenty-seven year old wife were arrested and accused of working as a team to rob businesses. The husband had lost his job, the unemployment check hadn't arrived, and they had four minor boys to feed.

In order to commit the robberies, the husband would stand in line like a prospective customer and then, once he reached the front of the line, grab money out of the register. His wife would wait in the van with their four sons.

Under A.R.S. §13-1902, "robbery" is defined as taking property from another's body or immediate presence and against their will, where the defendant threatens or uses force against them in order to coerce the person to release the property. Robbery is more serious than theft because it involves violence or the threat of violence.

Continue reading "Bonnie and Clyde Style Robberies in Arizona" »

September 30, 2013

Police crack down on violence, assaults and disorderly conduct in Arizona bars.

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Most people visiting a bar in Maricopa County, don't intend to commit a crime, or get in a fight with another customer, it often ends up that way. Alcohol or drugs can easily impact judgment and behaviors, and things can quickly get out of hand, and escalate to violence, assault, and worse.

As part of the Safe and Sober Campaign efforts still underway in Tempe, and East Valley Cities, Police and Maricopa County Deputies are monitoring bars closely to prevent violence, and other crimes, and make arrests.

Earlier this year, the actor Jason London (perhaps best known for his role in Dazed and Confused) got into a bar brawl in Scottsdale, Arizona and punched a bouncer as well as police officers. He was left with visible injuries and claimed he was the victim.

Arizona prosecutors charged him with assault--assaulting a peace officer is a serious felony. However, before trial, he reached a plea deal with prosecutors who dropped the assault charge in exchange for him pleading guilty to the much lighter charge of disorderly conduct. He was ordered to attend an alcohol treatment program and pay fees.

What constitutes disorderly conduct in Arizona? This subjective charge describes all kinds of behavior that law enforcement officers believe are inappropriate for a particular public setting. It can include scenarios like the drunken bar brawl described above. Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS 13-2904) lists these other acts as disorderly conduct:

• Engages in fighting or violence or disruptive behavior
• Makes an unreasonable amount of noise for the situation
• Employs abusive communication such that it's likely to provoke another person to retaliate physically
• Makes any protracted commotion, utterance or display with the intent to prevent the transaction of the business of a lawful meeting, gathering or procession
• Refuses to obey a lawful order to disperse issued to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a fire, a hazard or any other emergency
• Recklessly handles, displays or discharges a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

Continue reading "Disorderly Conduct and Bars don't Mix " »

June 19, 2013

Assault and related victim crimes carry the most severe penalties of all crimes in Arizona

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Violent crimes continue to plague Tempe AZ, especially on, and near Arizona State University (ASU). Tempe Police reported #911 and other calls for help had increased by 97 percent in 2012 over 2011, and arrests in criminal incidents continue to rise in 2013.
Incident reports and service calls for criminal violations in and around ASU are taxing Tempe and ASU Police resources.

Police report that the type of crimes that have increased include violent crimes, assaults, binge drinking, underage drinking, disorderly conduct, and criminal property damage. At least two deaths this year were reportedly linked to violence between fraternity rivals, while many others were seriously injured. Many of these are crimes against victims and carry the harshest sentencing of any crimes in Arizona.

Tempe officials are proposing ordinance changes making it easier to crack down on off-campus parties, while local police agencies seek out and making arrests for underage drinking laws, assaults, and other violent crimes.

Assault Crimes may be charged as Misdemeanors under A.R.S. 13-1203 or Aggravated Felonies A.R.S. 13-1204, depending on circumstances and nature of the offenses.

A person may be found guilty of misdemeanor assault in Arizona if they do one of the following:

(1) Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly injure someone else's body;
(2) Intentionally give someone else a reason to fear they will be harmed;
(3) Knowingly touch another person in order to provoke, injure or insult the person.

Misdemeanor assault may be punished with up to one year in prison and maximum fines of $2,500. You may also have to pay restitution to the victim.

A prosecutor may elevate a misdemeanor assault to an aggravated (felony) assault charge in eleven different circumstances. Felony aggravated assault carries significantly greater penalties than misdemeanor assault. For example, felony aggravated assault may be punished with 15 years of imprisonment, as well as the stigma of a felony conviction, loss of a professional license, ineligibility to own or possess a firearm and many other harsh consequences.

A few of the eleven circumstances in which a defendant who is 18 years old or older may be charged with aggravated assault include those where he: causes "serious bodily harm", uses a weapon or dangerous instrument, enters a private home with the intent of committing the assault, assaults someone who is 15 years old or younger, or assaults people of certain professions while they are working (including teachers, nurses, prison officials, fire department members, and paramedics).

Felony aggravated assault may also be charged if someone commits one of the forms of simple assault described above and also intentionally or knowingly prevents "the normal breathing or circulation of blood of another person by applying pressure to the throat or neck or by obstructing the nose and mouth either manually or through the use of an instrument", and a domestic relationship exists. In other words, this special type of aggravated assault can be charged against someone who attempts to strangle a domestic partner.

A few weeks ago, the Court of Appeals ruled on a case involving both simple assault and aggravated assault. In the case, a couple was arguing via text messages. When the male partner came home, he grabbed the woman, knocked her head, and squeezed her neck. Later he pressed his arm against her throat and told her to leave.

The male partner was charged with aggravated assault for strangling her, simple assault for knocking her head, and also for trying to stop her breathing a second time. The jury convicted him of the first and last charge. He was sentenced to eight years in state prison.

The defendant appealed on the grounds that the charge of aggravated assault related to strangulation was unconstitutionally vague (among other reasons). He claimed that nobody in Arizona could know what the statute meant by "normal" breathing or circulation and he referred to the state's own expert who testified that it was difficult to say what "normal" breathing was, even in medicine.

The defendant also argued that his due process rights were violated because all three forms of simple assault were included within the aggravated assault charge. He further argued that the jury should have been instructed as to which type of assault he had committed.

The appellate court explained that even though "normal" is a relative term, it is not unconstitutionally vague. Plainly read, the statute prohibits stopping another person's normal or typical breathing. The court also explained that this type of aggravated assault is a unique offense, not just another variation on the eleven circumstances that turn simple assault into felony aggravated assault. Ultimately the court affirmed the defendant's sentence.

In many cases, these crimes have been serious and resulted in felony charges. Penalties are severe if convicted. Criminal penalties can include jail or long term prison sentencing; large fines, fees, assessments; restitution; counseling, probation, or community services, victim restitution, and other court ordered penalties. But the consequences are much broader than criminal penalties. A student may be suspended or expelled from school or athletic teams, lose scholarships, residency status as a US Citizen, termination from their job or lose opportunities for future employment, become ineligible for school loans, and have a criminal record, lose driving privileges, and lose other rights that they currently enjoy.

Continue reading "Tempe, AZ a City under Assault with Crime " »

June 9, 2013

Impact of Maryland v. King Ruling on Arizona: What it gives and what it takes.

1220700_dna_sequence.jpgPrivacy rights were outweighed by law enforcement interests in the United States Supreme Court's June 3rd ruling in Maryland v. King. In this case, the Court was divided 5-4 over the question of DNA sample collection. All states and the federal government require convicted felons to submit DNA samples to law enforcement. But this was the first case to look at whether even those who are merely arrested (and assumed innocent until proven guilty) can be required to submit their DNA to law enforcement.

The Supreme Court ruled that states may--without a warrant-- routinely collect DNA samples from people arrested for a "serious crime." This was a highly anticipated ruling because it is the Court's first on the privacy of genetic information. The ruling focused on Maryland's law, which requires DNA sampling of those arrested for serious crimes, supposedly for the purpose of identifying them. However, the case's language was so broad that it opened the floodgates for all states to permit DNA sampling of people arrested, even if they are arrested only on a minor charge.

The case arose from a criminal defendant's appeal after he was convicted for a felony only because the Maryland police were able to match his DNA in a federal database. After the defendant was arrested for assault, the police swabbed the defendant's cheek to get a DNA sample and they submitted the sample to a federal DNA database. The swab was not necessary to prove the assault.

The federal database to which the sample was submitted matched the defendant's DNA to DNA collected from a crime scene six years earlier. Because of the routine cheek swab, the defendant was convicted of the earlier serious crime.

The Maryland Court of Appeals threw out the defendant's conviction on the grounds that a cheek swab violated Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure. Usually the State must obtain a warrant if it wants to conduct any kind of invasive physical testing. The State appealed the appellate ruling.

The Supreme Court's majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, compared DNA sampling of the arrested to fingerprinting which is legal. The Court overturned the Court of Appeals. Justice Kennedy wrote that states could collect DNA from people arrested for "serious offenses."

The majority opinion reasoned that Maryland's law supported the well-established and legitimate governmental interest of identifying people in custody as opposed to solving crimes. The majority also reasoned that a cheek swab is minimally intrusive from a physical perspective.

Justice Scalia, joined by three liberal justices, wrote the dissent. He warned, "As an entirely predictable consequence of today's decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason."

This ruling impacts all people in states that authorize DNA testing, including Arizona. At present, Arizona's law enforcement is able to collect DNA from anyone imprisoned for a felony offense, including those on probation. However, Arizona has also passed legislation to allow for the collection of DNA from those who are merely arrested, not convicted, of a serious crime.

This group includes those who are arrested for certain sexual offenses, burglary, prostitution, and other serious, violent or aggravated offenses. Although this group represents a relatively narrow number of criminal defendants now, as Justice Scalia pointed out the Supreme Court's ruling is broad enough that states could widen the net of people who are required to submit to DNA sampling. As Justice Scalia suggests, in the future, DNA sampling may be part of police booking procedure even in traffic cases.

Additional Resources

DNA Laws Database
Mesa Police Department
Mesa Municipal Court

Continue reading "US Supreme Court Rules No Warrant Needed to Collect DNA if Arrested " »

May 31, 2013

No "substantial penalties" can be imposed as a result of exercising their Fifth Amendment Rights


1921_sweet_lips.jpgMost people know they have a Fifth Amendment right not to be forced to incriminate oneself. This right encompasses not only the right not to speak about something that might lead you to actually admit to wrongdoing, but also the right to not have the court infer that your silence is itself an admission of guilt.

No substantial penalties can be imposed as a result of exercising your Fifth Amendment right. Moreover, if a defendant chooses to remain silent during sentencing, his silence is not to be taken as either an admission or a lack of contrition. However, if a defendant chooses to express remorse during sentencing, his statement can be used by the sentencing judge as a mitigating factor--a reason to be more lenient.

In an appellate case heard earlier this year, the rule against self-incrimination was applied to the issue of how a defendant's silence can affect sentencing. In that case, the defendant (a woman) was on trial for major felony charges and was convicted.

Before sentencing, the trial judge said he would not put her on probation because the probation officer had reported she would not make statements about her offense during the investigation. Therefore, the probation officer had concluded she would not be able to participate in any counseling or treatment diversion program which required frank communication.

The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court had improperly sentenced her to a two-year prison term instead of placing her on probation or suspending the sentence. In her view, the prison term violated her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because it punished her refusing to talk about the details of her case with a probation officer.

The appellate court explained that in this case the defendant was neither entitled to probation nor to have her sentence suspended. Probation was a sentencing alternative, rather than a right. These were matters over which the trial court had discretion. Appellate courts give deference to the trial judge's opinion about what seems necessary to rehabilitate a defendant.

The appellate court reasoned that a sentencing court was not prevented from considering a defendant's silence regarding the offense in determining whether he or she could be rehabilitated through probation. In this case, the trial court had grounded its assessment in the probation officer's report as to her unwillingness to talk about the offense even for purposes of rehabilitation.

The appellate court found that the sentence imposed was among those available by statute and therefore could not be considered a "substantial penalty" for silence or exercise of a Fifth Amendment right. The defendant in the instant case had relied on a Fifth Amendment case. In that case, a probationer was not required to answer certain polygraph questions because the court ruled he was entitled to assert the Fifth Amendment with respect to questions that could implicate him in future criminal matters.

The court reasoned that even a probationer would be required to answer questions relating to a past offense for which he was given probation. The defendant had refused to answer questions and had not intimated they might incriminate her in future criminal proceedings.

Additional Resources

Arizona Sentencing Chart
Maricopa County Criminal Procedures

Continue reading ""Remaining Silent" under the Fifth Amendment Should Not Infer Guilt " »

March 11, 2013

Why Disorderly Conduct Charges are often challenged and dismissed

"Disorderly Conduct" is also known as "Disturbing the Peace". There are a number of offenses under Arizona Criminal Code A.R.S. 13-2904 that fall within the classification of Disorderly Conduct. These are among the most successfully challenged criminal offenses due to their vague and sometimes biased nature.

By law the police must have "probable cause" to make an arrest. And although they may feel that the arrests meet the standards for probable cause that a crime occurred, the charges are often disputed and unjustified. For example, police often issue charges of Disorderly Conduct when they are annoyed with a person, and no other criminal charges apply to their conduct.

Disorderly Conduct charges are often seen coupled with other criminal charges such as domestic disputes or domestic violence, assault, resisting arrest, and other serious felony criminal offenses.

Under A.R.S. 13-2904 in Arizona, a person may be guilty of disorderly conduct if they intentionally and with knowledge disturb the peace of a neighborhood, business, person, gathering, meeting, or procession. Behaviors that fall within this code include but are not limited to fighting; serious, violent or disruptive behavior; public belligerence; unreasonably loud noise music, or laughter; use of abusive or offensive language; use of offensive gestures to anyone present that will likely provoke immediate physical retaliation; refusal to obey a civil or lawful order to evacuate or disperse issued to maintain public safety in emergency; or reckless handling, display or discharge of a gun or deadly weapon.

Criminal defenses include but are not limited to violations of constitutional rights including right to free speech, and gathering peacefully; insufficient evidence; lack of eye witnesses, lack of biased witnesses; or conflicting witness testimony; justification defenses; and failure of the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a criminal offense occurred.

Most are charged as Class 1 Misdemeanor in Tempe AZ call for 30 days in jail if convicted. If the behavior involves reckless handling, display or discharge of a gun or other deadly weapon, they are charged as Class 6 Felonies. All felonies in Arizona expose a person to prison terms sentencing and other harsh penalties. Other penalties include fines, fees, assessments, costs, probation, community service, and court ordered anger management counseling.

You should always consult a criminal defense attorney if you face disorderly conduct charges in Arizona, to discuss your options for defense. Defenses may apply that can be used to challenge due to lack of evidence, and justification. But your chances of a dismissal increase substantially if you are represented by a qualified criminal defense attorney.


Additional Resources:


Tempe Police Investigations Unit

Disorderly Conduct in Arizona

Arizona Revised Statutes

Arizona Sentencing Chart 2012 - 2013

Tempe Municipal Court

Continue reading "Defenses for Disorderly Conduct Charges in Arizona" »

March 4, 2013

The Mayor of Phoenix AZ recently announced plans for the largest Gun Buyback Program to be held in May 2013. It is being funded by an anonymous donation of $100,000.00.

A Gun Buyback Program is an organized jurisdictional effort to compensate gun owners in return for their guns. The goal is to take unwanted guns off the street so that they are not a threat to police officers or residents of the communities.

Here are some facts that have been released about the program:

• It will be conducted every Saturday in May, excluding Memorial Day weekend;

• Sessions will be held in various different parts of Phoenix in church parking lots or other trusted locations;
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• Anyone can drop off a weapon anonymously. City officials announced that no questions will be asked regarding the source of the firearm or it's possessor;

• The owner will receive an unknown amount to be determined at a later date for the weapon;

• The Phoenix Police will check to see if the firearm was stolen. If so, it will be returned to the rightful owner;

• If the weapon was used in a criminal offense, it will be retained by police to be used an investigation.

• All other firearms will be taken out of circulation.

More details will be released as May approaches. For more information a person can contact *Arizonans for Gun Safety at 602-547-0976.


Criminal Defense Attorney Phoenix AZ

Gun offenses are very serious crimes in Arizona. Convictions under A.R.S. 13-3102 Arizona criminal code call for harsh penalties, many of which are felonies. All firearms used in the course of conducting or fleeing from a crime are felonies, and call for aggravated sentencing of the initial crime. Felony convictions call for a minimum sentence of 1 year in prison, and loss of the right to possess a gun, and classify the person as a Prohibited Possessor under the Arizona gun laws.

If you have been arrested for any weapons crimes under Arizona you should always consult a criminal defense attorney before pleading guilty to charges. If retained, they will protect your rights, defend your charges, and make every effort to get a good outcome in your case. There may be constitutional rights that were violated, or other defenses that may be used to resolve the matter favorably on your behalf.

*The Law Office of James Novak is a criminal defense firm serving clients in the Phoenix area. It has no affiliation with Arizonans for Gun Safety or the Phoenix Police Department.

Additional Resources:


Phoenix Buyback Program


Arizona Gun Laws


Arizona sentencing for serious, violent or aggravated offenses


Phoenix Police Department

Phoenix Superior Court


Continue reading "Phoenix to Conduct Largest Gun Buyback Program in City's History " »

January 30, 2013

The correct way to confront your accuser as afforded under the 6th Amendment of the US Constitution.

Your Legal Rights to Confront Your Accuser or Witness


A defendant has many rights under the State and US Constitution. The 6th Amendment of the US Constitution affords the accused of the right to confront their accuser or witnesses against them.

Under the Arizona State Law A.R.S. 13-114 (3) a person is afforded the right to confront witnesses against them, in a criminal case, as prescribed by law.

It should go without saying, that this does not mean a person has right to physically or directly confront a person, outside of the criminal justice process. It means that a defendant has a right to confront witness against them as part of legal proceedings. This is the most commonly and effectively done through cross-examination of a witness in trial, through the defendant's criminal defense attorney. It involves questioning the witness regarding their testimony.

If these rights are violated, it may lead to suppression of the eyewitness identification or testimony. Violation of this right may lead to suppression of the witness testimony being used as evidence against a defendant.


Challenges to Witness Testimony

The Six Amendment also protects a defendant from being found guilty of a crime, based on "hear say" testimony. Some questions regarding admittance of evidence for example "here say" testimony, the parties may negotiate or decide the matters during evidentiary hearings, or conferences. If the Prosecution and Defense are in disagreement regarding the validity of a particular witness testimony, the judge may rule on whether or not it may be admitted.

Other factors may invalidate a witness statement or prove them less than accurate, before or during trial. Validity of a testimony may be compromised due to such external factors including: influences by other people; obstruction of a witnesses view; length of time that has elapsed since the incident and the testimony; confusion; reduction of recollection of the incident by the witness; unbiased nature of the witness; lack of proper lighting to see the witness; inattention of the witness during the incident, distractions or noise surrounding the witness; stress and other circumstances. In these cases, the defense lawyer may file a motion to suppress that the invalid testimony or identification, from being admitted so that it may not be used against the defendant.

Nonetheless, other material evidence should be always be used to increase the validity of witness identification or testimony. Material evidence may include such things as photographs, surveillance video, fingerprints and DNA comparisons.


Burden of Proof

In absence of a "guilty" plea or conviction, a defendant is guilty until proven otherwise by a court of law. In order to get a conviction, the State of Arizona and Prosecution must prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that a defendant is guilty of committing a crime.

If the prosecution wishes to use a witness statement or identification against the defendant, their defense attorney will usually examine this identification or testimony to confirm its validity. If the witness identification or testimony raises reasonable doubt due to invalidity, it may lead to suppression of this evidence, and in some cases, a dismissal of charges.


Criminal Attorney for defense of criminal charges in Mesa AZ

Any criminal charges in Arizona can potentially be serious. You should always consult a qualified criminal defense attorney before pleading guilty to any criminal offense. Although you may have been arrested, you are still presumed innocent by law. You have the right to hire a lawyer to defend your charges. If retained, they will protect your rights; make sure you are treated fairly, and defend the charges against you. This will increase your chances of getting a favorable resolution in your case.

Additional Resources:


The 6th Amendment of the Constitution


Arizona State Legislature - Right to Witness Confrontation


Arizona State Legislature - Presumption of Innocence


Arizona Rules of Evidence - Recent Amendments


Mesa AZ Municipal Court


Continue reading "Rights to Confront Your Accuser in Criminal Charges" »

December 17, 2012

Disorderly Conduct also known as "disturbing the peace", is one of the most common criminal offenses. In 2011, police made 17,537 arrests for this offense in Arizona, making it the 4th most common offense in the state.

Most are charged as Class 1 Misdemeanors, which carries a jail sentence. But depending on the circumstances, may be charged as Class 1 felony which exposes a person to harsh prison sentencing.

Disorderly Conduct laws cover a wide range of criminal conduct, which many perceive it as a "catch-all" offense. Others consider it a last resort charge, in those cases where police are annoyed with a person, and have no other applicable charges for which to cite a person. It is often coupled with other offenses such as assault, domestic violence, unlawful discharge of a gun, or resisting arrest.

Disorderly Conduct charges are often vague in nature, making it one of the most challenged criminal offenses in court. Often the suspect was acting within the order of their Constitutional Rights. They are often dismissed for the following reasons:

• Insufficient evidence;
• Lack of consistent credible witness statements;
• Violations in Constitutional Rights;
• Affirmative or Justifiable Defenses were successfully argued.
• Inability of the prosecution to "prove beyond reasonable doubt" that the crime was committed.


A.R.S. 13-2904 Disorderly Conduct Laws


A person is guilty of Disorderly Conduct, if, with intent to disturb the peace and quiet of a neighborhood, person, family, or business, other public or place, with knowledge of doing so commits the following:

1) Engages in fighting, violence or seriously disruptive behavior; and includes public drunkenness resulting in disorderly behavior;
2) Makes unreasonable and disruptive noise; or
3) Uses abusive or offensive language or gestures to against another that is likely to provoke immediate physical retaliation by that person; or
4) Makes commotion of long duration; verbal or physical display with the intent to prevent transactions of a business, lawful gathering, meeting, or procession; or
5) Refusing to comply with a lawful order to disperse for any of the following purposes:

• To maintain public safety;
• If they are within the dangerous proximity to a fire, or other hazard;
• Any other emergency as deemed necessary by civil local, or state officials, or criminal law enforcement entities.

These offenses will be charged as Class 1 Misdemeanors, and expose a person to jail, and other penalties.

A person will also be guilty of Disorderly Conduct if with intent and knowledge, displays or discharges a firearm, other deadly weapon, or dangerous instrument. This offense will be charged as a Class 6 Felony, exposing a defendant to prison, and other harsh penalties.


Criminal Defense Attorney for Disorderly Conduct in Tempe, AZ

Disorderly Conduct charges are not always justified, are often vague in nature. For these reasons criminal defense attorneys can often get them dismissed. You should never plead guilty before consulting an experienced criminal lawyer about your matter. If retained they will evaluate your case and determine what defenses may be used based on your circumstances. They will tell your side of the story; protect your rights; defend your charges; and work to get you the best possible outcome in your case.

Additional Resources:


Disorderly Conduct Laws

Arizona Department of Public Safety - Crime Statistics 2011

Tempe Police Department - Resources

Tempe City Court


Continue reading "Disorderly Conduct Charges: Why they are often challenged and dismissed " »

November 10, 2012

The Verdict could have national impact on when law enforcement can collect DNA evidence from suspects.

On November 9, 2012, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a criminal DNA testing case, Maryland v. King (12-207), which could result in nation-wide impacts. The defendant's DNA samples were collected immediately following his arrest. He was subsequently convicted of rape. King's Attorney attempted to suppress the DNA evidence, on the grounds that it was taken unconstitutionally. The Maryland Court of Appeals agreed, and overturned King's conviction. They ruled that suspects under arrest but not convicted, have more rights than convicted felons; and that DNA testing was more invasive than standard finger print evidence.

The State of Maryland disagreed, and appealed to the US Supreme Court to hear the case. The case is expected to be heard by the high court in June 2013.

DNA testing has been the subject of much controversy. Objection to the DNA testing of non-convicted suspects is that it is in violation of a person's 4th Amendment Constitutional Right against unlawful search and seizures.

All states currently use DNA testing as an admissible investigative tool. Currently it is lawful in most states, including Arizona, to collect report and distribute DNA results for convicted felons. However, not all states allow collection, analysis, reporting, distributing, and use of DNA testing as evidence against first time criminal offenders, with no felony convictions.


DNA Testing Laws in Arizona

Arizona allows collection, reporting and distribution of DNA evidence from prison inmates and convicted felons. Criminal DNA samples are maintained by in a forensic data base by authorized Law enforcement agencies, and indexed by the FBI.

However, in recent years, Arizona also passed legislation allowing DNA to be collected from suspects who were arrested, but not convicted of a felony in specific situations.
Under Arizona Law A.R.S. 13-610 DNA may be collected from a suspect if they were arrested for serious, violent, and dangerous felony offenses on involving a victim.

The law allows for DNA testing in situations where the suspect was arrested for a criminal offense specified by law, even if they were not convicted of the crime. Examples of these offenses include but are not limited to sexual offenses and assault; burglary in the first or second degree; homicide; and other dangerous offenses involving victims.


Criminal Defense for Charges involving DNA cases

Anyone arrested for a serious or dangerous crime, should always consult a criminal defense attorney before pleading guilty. Felony convictions for these types of crimes, will result in years to life in prison, or even expose a defendant to the death penalty. A defendant should always invoke their right to retain qualified legal representation to defend their rights and charges. If DNA evidence was collected unlawfully it may lead to suppression of the evidence in favor of the defendant. If DNA evidence does not lead to a match of the suspect arrested, the charges may be dismissed or lead to a "not-guilty" verdict in a jury trial. The lawfulness or validity of DNA evidence should always be argued by a qualified criminal defense attorney.


Additional Resources:


Arizona State Legislature


Arizona State Bar - Jury Instructions for Evidence


United States Supreme Court - Maryland v. King


US Supreme Court Orders - Petition Granted Maryland V. King, Alonzo J. (12-207)



Continue reading " The US Supreme Court to Hear Landmark DNA Evidence Case " »

October 11, 2012

United States Supreme Court.jpg"Request made 'unknowingly'; defendant lacked ability to adequately mount a defense" - says Judge

On October 9, 2012, the Superior Court Judge in Maricopa County denied Michael Lee Crane's request to represent himself at trial. Crane is accused three violent robberies and homicides in the Phoenix, AZ.

The defendant claimed the reason he wanted to represent himself was because no one knew his case better than he did. But the reason for the Judge's denial had little to do with knowledge of the case.

But rather, Crane had persistently been disruptive; refused follow or recognize governing authority and law; refused to answer questions; refused to follow substantiated law; refused to comply with the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure and Code; and deliberate engaged in serious and obstructionist misconduct

The Judge explained that Crane needed to be able to understand, and follow these rules and follow the Arizona and US constitution. The Judge explained that by not knowing and following these laws and procedures, the defendant did not realize the limits he would place on his defense. But more importantly, his request was denied on the basis that the request for self-representation was not "knowingly" made.


Analysis of Ruling

The Sixth Amendment of the constitution affords a person the right to counsel or the right to defend themselves. And while it is unwise, the court must respect a person's right to refuse attorney representation, even if it to the detriment of the person's defense. For this reason, the Judge did take the defendant's request under advisement. However, the decision is still ultimately at the judge's discretion.

In this Ruling the Judge recognized the right of a person to defend themselves and refuse counsel. However, he explained that this right has limits. The court cited numerous important rulings to refuse to the defendant his request for self-representation:

• A defendant who is persistently disruptive of orderly procedures may lose their right to self-representation U.S. v. Williams 2011; State v Brooks 1989; Smith v State 1998; Wilson v. state 2004; Coleman v. State, 1980;

• Repeatedly arguing with the court on issues that were already ruled on, may be cause for forfeiture of the right to self-representation State v. Hemenway, 2004;

• Self-representation must be balanced against the government's right to a fair trial which requires it to be conducted in a judicious and orderly forum State v. Henry, 1997;

• A trial court has broad discretion in managing the conduct of a trial, and has a duty to properly exercise that discretion State v. Cornell, 1994;

• Even if found competent to waive counsel, and stand trial, the court still has discretion to deny self-representation requests if it believes that the defendant's request was not made knowingly.


Criminal Defense Attorney Mesa, AZ

If you face criminal charges, especially if they are serious, you should always consider retaining a qualified criminal defense attorney to represent you. They will defend your charges, and make sure your rights are protected. They will represent you through all stages of a criminal case; be capable of mounting a defense on your behalf; and worked towards obtaining the best possible resolution to your charges.


Additional Resources:

State of Arizona v. Michael Crane

Arizona Judicial Branch - Rules of Criminal Procedure

Arizona Superior Court - Case Procedures

Continue reading "Judge denies murder suspect's request to represent himself at trial" »

October 3, 2012

Domestic Violence Charges.jpgOctober 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the observance of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Every nine seconds a woman in the United States is beaten. Three women a day in the USA lose their lives. But victims are not limited to women. Victims can be men, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, or other familial relationship.

The observance was founded by the National Coalition against Domestic Violence. Its goal is to reach out to victims throughout the nation to protect victims, raise awareness, and help end domestic violence.

A wide range of services and activities focused on education, support, and prevention at local, state and national levels. It includes the mourning of those who died as a result of domestic violence, and provides services and support efforts to their surviving children


Identifying Abusive Behaviors

• Controlling behavior;
• Physical abuse;
• Threat or intimidation;
• Isolation;
• Mental or physical neglect;
• Economic abuse or neglect;
• Sexual abuse


Planning for Safety


• Don't allow yourself to be cornered in a room especially a small enclosed area;
• Educate yourself and your children to identify signs and indicators from your abuser that abuse is imminent;
• Discuss safety with your children before any incidents occur including safe places to go, what numbers to call, and safety signals to alert them to act if anything happens;
• Set up emergency signals with a trusted family member or neighbor who lives outside your home;
• Collect important documents, and records that you can access immediately from a safe location on short notice;
• Pack and keep a bag in a safe place that includes clothing, nonperishables, medicines, water, and any needed supplies for you and your children for at least 24 hours;
• Be familiar with local domestic violence shelters in your area, and keep their contact information readily available in the event of emergency.

Local and national supporters are wearing purple ribbons, and conducing "going purple activities". For activities in your area, you can visit your state's Domestic Violence Coalition, official city police website or other national resources.


Domestic Violence Charges

Domestic abuse or violence is a criminal offense, punishable by jail, fines, and counseling. You should know that even victims sometimes are charged or arrested for domestic violence. There are a numerous reasons for this. It can occur if a parent is a witness to domestic abuse or neglect to a child, but does not take any action to report it to authorities or respond appropriately to keep the child safe. It can also occur, if the police arrive, and are uncertain of which person is the aggressor and which is the victim; or if both persons contributed to the incident of aggression, violence, abuse, or neglect.

If you received charges or were arrested, you always consult a criminal defense attorney regarding your matter, before pleading guilty to charges, or appearing in court.


Additional Domestic Violence Support Resources:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Other US Organizations for Domestic Violence Support

Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence

State Coalition Contact List


Continue reading "October - National Domestic Violence Awareness Month " »

September 26, 2012

Gilbert DUI Lawyer.jpgEstablishing driver impairment is the most challenging element of a DUI

Elements of a DUI

There are three elements of a DUI charge in Arizona. Establishing impairment is the third, and most difficult to confirm. First, the facts need to establish that the motorist must be driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle. Second, the police must determine if a motorist is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Third, the police must establish that a person's ability to drive was "Impaired to the slightest degree" or more as a result of drugs, alcohol or any combination of drugs and alcohol.

Driving "Impairment" Defined

The Arizona Department of Public Safety defines a "driver impairment" resulting from being under the influence of drugs or alcohol as:

"A reduction in the performance of critical driving tasks"

To determine if the motorist is experiencing a reduction of performance, the police are required to follow certain procedures and protocol. The officer will need to have "probable cause" to believe the driver is impaired due to drugs or alcohol.


Determining Driver Impairment

Determining an impairment of a driver is less fact oriented and less objective than determining their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level. BAC levels can be obtained through use of a breathalyzer test or a chemical test such as DUI blood test.

Here are some tools the police will use to determine if a driver is impaired:

1. The motorist driving behaviors prior to the stop;
2. Police observations of the motorist at the time of, and following the stop;
3. Mannerisms and responses of the motorist to questions asked by the officer;
4. Ability of the motorist to follow instructions;
5. Statements or admittance made by motorist to police;
6. Passenger or objective witness statements;
7. DUI Roadside Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) developed by NHTSA:
a. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Eye Test
b. On-Leg Stand Test;
c. Walk-and-Turn Test

These factors, particularly the DUI Roadside Testing FSTs are often challenged; considered biased and police opinionated, by the defense. This is because the police explain the test; provide instructions; administer the tests, and then grade the tests.


Arizona DUI Laws

Under Arizona law A.R.S. §28.1381, a motorist may be arrested for DUI, if they are driving below the legal limit of 0.08% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC); or if they are under the influence of drugs, and are "impaired to the slightest degree". Criminal Charges will be brought as a Class 1 Misdemeanor.


Criminal Defense Firm for DUI charges Tempe AZ

You should always consult a criminal defense attorney if you were arrested for any type of DUI charges. The penalties are harsh for convictions, even for firs time Drug DUI and DUI "Impaired to the slightest degree". Sentencing is the same as those for DUI in excess of the legal limit of 0.08% BAC, but before 0.15%. Penalties include jail term of 10 days; driver's license suspension for 90 days; use of Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on their vehicles; alcohol or drug screening and education; probation; fines, fees, and assessment costs. You will need a qualified and experienced legal advocate to defend your charges, make sure your rights are protected, and work to resolve the charges with a favorable outcome.


Additional Resources:


Arizona Department of Public Safety

Arizona State Legislature - Revised Statutes

Maricopa County Superior Court - Criminal Case Information


Continue reading "Establishing Driver "Impairment" in DUI Cases " »

September 24, 2012

Much controversy still surrounds the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, even though the state law approved use for medicinal by qualified card-holders. Users driving who are patients that possess a medical marijuana card arrest for both possession, and Drug DUI.


Marijuana Possession Charges

Under current law qualified patients of the MM cards may purchase 2.5 ounces of Marijuana every two weeks. However, despite the fact that a person may be a qualified MM card holder they risk arrest for illegal drug possession. Some County prosecutors are not recognizing its' medicinal legality. This is because they feel it conflicts with Federal laws which prohibit the use of it for any reason. Some Maricopa County prosecutors have vowed to prosecute these charges. They will likely be convicted in lower court, and then be compelled to appeal a possession conviction to a higher court, until a ruling can be ordered by the Court of Appeals or the Arizona Supreme Court.


Drug DUI charges

Possession of a legal MM card will not prevent a motorist from getting a Drug DUI. The effects of Marijuana can stay in a person's system for days, weeks, and even months depending on how much and often they use it. So if a driver tests positive for Marijuana following a DUI stop, they may be arrested even if the Marijuana did not cause their driving to be impaired to the slightest degree.

If in fact, the driver was not impaired to the slightest degree due to the Marijuana found in their system, they will have a justifiable defense against the DUI drug charges under Arizona Law.


Arizona Drug DUI Laws

Under Arizona Drug DUI law A.R.S. 28-1381 it is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle if they are:

• Under the influence of any drugs or alcohol; and
• Impaired to the slightest degree;
• While there is any drug defined in section A.R.S. 13-3401 or its metabolite in the person's system

The law specifies that it is not a defense that a defendant was entitled to use the drug under Arizona Law. This will be charged as a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

Criminal Defense Attorney for Drug DUI and Possession Mesa, AZ

It is important that you consult an experienced criminal attorney to discuss your matter and options for defense following an arrest. You should never plead guilty to charges without first discussing the matter with your legal counsel or without their legal representation. The Arizona laws are very strict and the penalties are harsh. Sentencing includes jail time; fines; fees; drug or alcohol counseling and treatment; suspension of driver's license; use of interlock device on vehicle; probation, and other penalties ordered by the court. Defenses should be argued by a qualified criminal attorney under Arizona Rules of criminal procedure through proper court channels. Successful challenges may lead to evidence suppression, charge dismissal or other favorable outcome in your case.


Additional Resources:


Arizona Department of Health Services

Arizona Legislature Revised Statutes

Maricopa County Superior Drug Court


Continue reading "Marijuana DUI Laws: Users Driving with Medical Marijuana risk being arrested for illegal drug possession and drug DUI. " »

September 19, 2012

United States Supreme Court.jpgOn September 18, 2012, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton released the temporary restraining order on the immigration provision in SB 1070 A.R.S. 11-1051 (B). The action was pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on the matter in June 2012.

At the center of a two year legal batter, is the provision in the law known as "Show me your papers", and was the most controversial of Arizona's SB1070. Under this provision a police stop must still be a lawful one. In other words, the "reasonable suspicion" that a violation of the law occurred in order to make a legal stop.

During the stop, the officer determines that there is reasonable suspicion that a person is unlawfully in the United States. If reasonable suspicion exists that the person may be in the country illegally, the officer must make a reasonable attempt to contact the USB Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency to confirm the immigration status of the detainee.

The law also requires police to verify immigration status of arrested or imprisoned persons prior to their release.


Lawful Documentation of US Residency

Under SB 1070 A.R.S. 11-1051 (B) a person is presumed to be in the United States legally if they can provide the following documentation:

• Valid Arizona Driver's License;

• Valid Arizona Nonoperation ID License;

• Valid Tribal Enrollment cared or alternative Tribal ID;

• Valid US Federal, State, or Local Government issued ID, if the entity requires proof of legal presence to issue any of the above documents.


U.S. Presidential Executive Order Amnesty Exceptions


There are exceptions to the rules, including those afforded under the U.S. President's Executive Order Decree on June15, 2012, which was also effective immediately. Eligible applicants will receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for a work or school permit to reside in the United States.

This applies to otherwise illegal immigrants. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began accepting applications for "Deferred Actions" for the following persons:

• Those brought to the US before the age of 16; and

• Those who are under the age of 31; and

• Who have lived in the USA continuously from June 15, 2007 to June 15, 2012;

• Currently enrolled and attending school; or

• Graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school; or

• Earned a General Education Development (GED) Certificate; or

• An honorably discharged veteran of the US Coast Guard or US armed forces; or

• Have not been convicted of a felony; serious misdemeanor; three or more other misdemeanors; and

• They do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.


The immigration laws in Arizona and on a Federal level continue to change and face legal challenges. Police spokespersons extended their intent to "Treat all individuals with dignity and respect, which is the ethical foundation of policing". We will continue to follow up on changing legislation.


US Citizenship and Immigration Services

SB 1070 Arizona Legislature

Continue reading "Arizona's "Show me your papers" immigration provision starts now" »